11 Exercises to Help Get Rid of Shoulder Pain

15 October, 2018
Do you suffer from shoulder pain? Learn about 11 great exercises to help you find relief.

Spending a lot of time in front of a computer, sleeping on your side, or lifting weights are all causes of shoulder pain. This pain may even extend to your neck and back.

Besides applying heat and ice to reduce inflammation, we recommend these effective exercises.

Stretching routine to alleviate shoulder pain

Daily exercises are vital to relieve shoulder pain and improve flexibility.

Step one is just getting enough rest at night, and giving yourself breaks from the same positions during the day. You want to change up your body’s positioning every few hours at least.

Additionally, you can increase your muscle strength and improve your posture with this routine.


  • The exercises should be gentle and controlled, and done after warming up the area.
  • Afterwards, it’s a good idea to stretch the shoulder area to get blood flowing.
  • Properly done movements will prevent injuries and pain.

For more shoulder exercises, check this out, too:

7 Exercises to Strengthen Your Shoulders

A good routine could be made up of:

1. Warm up

Before beginning, warm up like this:

  • Rest your hand on the back of a chair.
  • Take a step or two back so that your arm is completely extended. Let your other arm hang normally.
  • Make circular or swinging movements for 2 minutes.
  • Switch arms and repeat.

2. Upper shoulder stretching

shoulder pain

  • Bring your right hand towards your left shoulder.
  • With your left hand, take your right elbow and lift it as much as you can towards your face. Hold this position for a few seconds and return to your initial position.
  • Repeat 5 times and then switch to the other arm.

3. Lateral stretching

  • This stretch starts like the last one, but you apply pressure to the side.
  • This way, your hand leaves your shoulder and your arm is lightly stretched.
  • Do 5 repetitions per side.

4. Posterior stretch

  • To do this stretch, extend your hand behind you and touch a door frame or the edge of a wall.
  • Take a few steps forward so your arm is completely extended behind your body.
  • Press for 5 seconds and relax.
  • Do 5 repetitions, and then switch to the other arm.

5. Combined stretch

shoulder stretch

For this stretch, you’ll need an elastic band or a stretchy piece of fabric.

  • Hold one end with your right hand and bring your arm behind your head. Your elbow will be bent.
  • Move your left hand towards your waist and grab the other end of the band.
  • Once you’re holding both ends, stretch your top arm toward the ceiling and the bottom one towards the ground.
  • Pull like that for 30 seconds on each side. Then relax, and repeat 5 times.

6. Laying down stretch

  • Lay down on a bed or mat with your legs straight.
  • Hold your right wrist with your left hand and bring your arms up and back.
  • Once you pass your face, stretch your right arm and try to hold for at least a few seconds.
  • Then, repeat with your left arm.

7. Butterfly stretch

  • Laying down, put your hands on the back of your neck. Your elbows will be up.
  • Open your arms out to the sides and try to make your elbows touch the floor.
  • Repeat this 5 times.

Exercise and strength-building routine

When you’re done stretching, it’s time to strengthen your shoulders. This is ideal for people with tendonitis or rotator cuff issues that give them shoulder pain.

1. Vertical push-ups

Since regular push-ups can be hard if your shoulders hurt, here is a gentler option that will help strengthen them.

  • Stand in front of a wall, far enough away that you can put your palms on the wall with your arms stretched out.
  • Then, move your torso forward and lift your heels. Your elbows will bend and your shoulders will go up.
  • Hold for a few seconds and return to your initial position.
  • Do 10 repetitions.

2. Shoulder raises

This exercise is also done standing in front of a wall.

  • Put your palms on the wall and step back until your arms are completely extended.
  • Raise your arms a little at a time, without lifting your hands from the wall, as high as you can (your goal is to get your shoulders as high as your ears).
  • Lower your arms little by little and start over.
  • Do 5 repetitions.

3. Dumbbell exercise

You can do this exercise without weights at first and add weight as you get stronger.

  • For the first exercise, lay face down on a sofa, bed, or bench.
  • Lift one arm up in the air.
  • Take the dumbbell and lift your stretched-out arm up and back.
  • Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.

The second one is similar but done in a seated position.

  • The arm holding the weight moves back until parallel with the floor.
  • Do 10 repetitions per side.

Want more exercises like this? We recommend:

Exercises to Tone Your Arms

4. Exercises using sticks

Sometimes sticks are helpful workout tools. You can use a broomstick or cane, for example.

  • Standing with your back straight and legs slightly apart, hold the stick with your hands at either end.
  • Move your arms to each side and stretch as far as you can.
  • You can do the same thing with your arms extended behind you (always holding the stick).

Alternatively you can make circles with your arms holding the stick, lifting it above your head and down to your abdomen. Repeat clock-wise and then counter clock-wise.

Another very effective exercise is to lift your arms above your head and move the stick side to side.

Give these great exercises and stretches a try!

Principal image courtesy of wikiHow.com

  • Burkhead, W. Z., & Rockwood, C. A. (1992). Treatment of instability of the shoulder with an exercise program. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery – Series A. https://doi.org/10.2106/00004623-199274060-00010
  • Gross, A. R., Paquin, J. P., Dupont, G., Blanchette, S., Lalonde, P., Cristie, T., … Hoving, J. (2016). Exercises for mechanical neck disorders: A Cochrane review update. Manual Therapy. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.math.2016.04.005
  • Worsley, P., Warner, M., Mottram, S., Gadola, S., Veeger, H. E. J., Hermens, H., … Stokes, M. (2013). Motor control retraining exercises for shoulder impingement: Effects on function, muscle activation, and biomechanics in young adults. Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jse.2012.06.010